What I Hated the Least Today 221/365: This Be the Verse

51 comments
Very ugly and totally unrelated

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

—Philip Larkin, “This Be the Verse”

I blame my parents for everything bad that happens to me (when I currently don’t blame myself, which is even more common). The parents are the obvious culprits. After all, they brought me to this world in the first place.

At the moment, a rare family constellation is occurring when I talk both to my father and mother. Not simultaneously, but concurrently; plus, one mustn’t know that I talk to the other (they divorced in an uncivilised manner ages ago but still bear grudge).

However, I don’t talk to my brother, who is my only sibling, and who doesn’t wish to talk. If I had a larger family, I’m perfectly sure there’d be more members with whom I wouldn’t be on speaking terms (or vice versa).

The nice thing about my talks with parents is supposed to be that I’m being a well-behaved offspring and am doing the right thing (or what). The downside is that these communications put a bit too much strain on my clinically depressed nervous system.

Talking to both of my parents, it becomes rather obvious how come I grew up to end up in the hands of psychiatrists. Some kids are naturally resilient, shut up, deal with it and survive their upbringing. Inconveniently, I was apparently a fragile, impressionable child who internalised a gazillion harmful thinking patterns.

On the thinking note, I think I forgot what my point was (if any). In lieu of a point then, let’s make a (supposedly) therapeutic selective list of what I learned from my father during our today’s phone call. (I called him once, after a year of not speaking, to say hello, and now he calls me anytime he’s drunk and feeling frisky – which is often, he is alcoholic.)

Father: How’s your so-called depression? 
Me: Not great, but I’m trying to cope.
Father: Look, it’s a question of will, you just lack the willpower. 

Father: So, are you finally earning enough to support yourself?
Me: No, but business is improving, this month is my best so far.
Father: “Improving” is a shitty business model, I told you you wouldn’t manage.

I probably shouldn’t take my father too seriously, but it’s difficult for me to tell apart what’s my own thinking and what’s a thinking conditioned by my upbringing. Somewhat tragically, I tend to agree with my father: “improving” isn’t good enough and depression isn’t a thing (which doesn’t prevent me from having it).

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51 comments on “What I Hated the Least Today 221/365: This Be the Verse”

  1. On the one hand you could see a positive in that you CAN speak with your parents. On the other is your adult knowledge of them. You know them better than anyone else so you’d be best to argue the value of the communications you have. That old expression: “I love you dad but I take what you say with a grain of salt.”
    I read your dad’s reaction to your depression and sadly he sounds so much like my Ex who isn’t alcoholic but is controlling of my kids every chance she gets..its like they are incapable of allowing you to grow up and be your own person they have to treat you as a child still….my kids sometimes around the dinner table tell me the tales of childhood that have left them ‘scarred’ because I was their father……thankfully we see the fun in what they say, they keep talking to me so things can’t be all that bad I think….have a good day Mara…

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Michael! It’s actually helpful that you pointed out that at least my parents are still alive, so I can talk to them when I’m inclined to do so. It’s a shame when families, not just mine, aren’t working properly. And when one family member is trying to control others. I appreciate that your shared your view and your experience. It’s good to see how others see it and what their own family troubles are, it helps me to put things in perspective.

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      1. Life’s like that isn’t it…..there’s always someone worse off than you even though at times you wonder how…..I have been lucky in that my kids still talk to me, my artist son refuses to have anything to do with his mother and that has always bothered me, after all we only have one mother and even though mine died over 30 years ago I still miss her. Though I do understand why my son has nothing to do with his mother, some wounds just don’t heal.
        Anyway with Christmas just around the corner its a time for getting together and having some fun…..hope you enjoy yours…

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        1. Oh of course there is always someone worse off than you! Though I wonder who the most miserable person on earth is 😉 True, Christmas is a good time for family reunions, though Christmas was always the most stressful family time, so I don’t have particularly fond memories. It’s when people try the most when things go the worst…

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          1. Yes it is a problem that isn’t..I think at times its hard enough considering someone/anyone worse off than how you feel at that time……and you are right Christmas can be stressful especially when kids and family are concerned. My kids will turn up on Christmas night and we shall sit about and eat and drink a little, share the stories of the day and hopefully have a good laugh…..

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          2. I wish you a pleasant and peaceful Christmas then! I’ll spend the holiday with my mother, but what I’m really looking forward is enjoying a bit of peace on my own and catching up with some work. That’s always been my favourite plan for Christmas 😉 I realise I’m probably weird.

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          3. One would expect no less….I am sure Santa, if you believe in such things, will call on you in the most generous of fashions… 🙂

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    1. Haha, thank you, you always cheer me up 🙂 Next time I don’t want encouragement, I’m sure to phone my dad. I hate the red plant and the photo is horrible, so I thought it would be a good match with this rather horrible post 😉

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      1. Your posts cheer me up, so it is a mutual thing I guess. I only hate plants that die. Every plant I have ever had has died, usually within a couple of months, but I did have a rubber plant that lasted nearly a year, it was effectively a stalk with one leaf on it, but I loved it. Anything that defies inevitability like that is deserving of love 😀

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        1. Awe ❤ I used to hate plants precisely for reasons of their poor durability. I had several plastic plants, which lasted reasonably well. Now I’m experimenting with a new thing and got me a few cacti. I got four, expecting that they will be dying on me as the time goes.

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          1. “I had several plastic plants, which lasted reasonably well”, if you can kill plastic plants then your abilities make me look like a complete amateur, I can only kill live ones.
            I have tried cacti with some limited success, they died a little later than other plants.. Nowadays I have a live plant policy, its called “let them live” 😀

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          2. One out of four of my cacti has officially died now. So that’s it solved, I’m waiting for more to go…

            I killed a few plastic plants by leaving them outside in a storm…

            My cat hasn’t died though, owing to/despite of my care, so I’m pretty pleased with this success.

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    1. Yep, that helps too, actually, at least I know where it’s coming from. Sure, one can’t change one’s childhood and mine wasn’t by far the worst, but it’s good to know how things started 🙂

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  2. I’m of the view that “you can’t choose your family” is a false maxim. We can’t choose who we share DNA or legal bonds with but we can – as fully fledged adults – choose who we regard as family. I’m all for healthy emotional detachment and keeping people at the peripheries if relationships with them are dysfunctional or toxic. Instead you can create a new “family” from people who are actually positive and nurturing influences.

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    1. I pretty much shared your view and didn’t insist on the necessity of loving or even talking to one’s family only because it’s family – hence my hiatuses in talking to them – but I was encouraged in the psychiatric hospital to fix my family relationships, which I duly tried to do, and now I slightly suspect that it wasn’t a sound piece of advice. Fortunately, I have some very nice bloggers around me, whom I deeply appreciate and whom I consider my adopted family 🙂

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      1. That doesn’t sound like sound advice at all. It’s not any one person’s responsibility or obligation to “fix” relationships and some just cannot be mended anyway. I think better advice is to accept things for how they are and let them go.

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        1. Thank you for your sensible and insightful comment. I guess general psychiatric advice doesn’t apply to each individual case equally well. On one hand, I was advised to make it good with the family; on the other hand, I was warned that we can’t change others, we must change ourselves. Well, that’s all nice, but then, I don’t believe the fault is entirely with me – common sense 😉 It’s all so complicated, family!

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  3. Parents are to blame, and within the realms of unacceptable parenting and acceptable parenting slight variations can make or break a child and indeed the relationship. Spend as much time as you can with people who have a positive impact on your life and limit your time with those who don’t. It is always much harder at this time of year when it appears that everyone else is having a wonderful time with their vast and united family – but they’re probably not 🙂

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    1. Thank you very much for your uplifting and sensible comment. You are right of course, on all accounts – I, too, believe that more families are dysfunctional than we think and I certainly suspect that very few people are having a good time with their families. So it is important, as you say, to look for people whose company is pleasing and encouraging elsewhere. Good for me to have found this kind of people in the blogosphere 🙂

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  4. Big time UGH on this one, Mara. Yes, the good news is you’re talking to your parents, however that conversation with your dad wasn’t exactly uplifting and supportive. Hell, that’s in the parent rule book somewhere around, oh, I don’t know – say page 1!!

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    1. Thank you for your encouraging opinion, Joanne, I’ve been doubting myself recently, wondering if it’s my parents or just me – after all, I was always well fed, well dressed and not beaten (too much) as a child, which is more than many kids have. So I shouldn’t be complaining! Plus, the blogosphere is such a wonderful and uplifting space, it helps me a lot to be here with you all 🙂

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        1. Emotional abuse wasn’t a thing when I was growing up, so I’m sure my parents weren’t realising that they were committing something. Which sort of excuses them, I guess they did their best. After all, that’s what we all do, doing our best.

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  5. i tell my depressed clients that they are strong not weak and it is true. They are strong to deal with the stresses of everyday life and to have something that makes all of that feel harder. It is very true 🙂

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    1. Thank you a lot for your insight! Depression doesn’t look like a big deal, but it does make ordinary things difficult big time, so one spends a lot of strength and energy on doing something which should come naturally. Like even getting up in the morning 😮 One would think that it shouldn’t require so much effort…

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    1. You’re right, as others also mentioned, I’d better be glad that I have living parents. Now, that would be a miracle unlikely to happen, for my father to give up drinking – he does take occasional breaks to allow the liver to recuperate, but given how long this has been going on, I doubt he has any motivation to give up. He insists he’s in perfect health, considering, so why would he quit, right…?

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  6. Mara, I love these posts … dark as the subject matter might be! The comments too [feralc@t] LOL.

    There’s so much to say about this so I wouldn’t know where to start. When I was forty, I came to some kind of insight/awakening that she [mum] did her best/what she thought was the best. Back then, I seriously doubt there were any books on parenting, and her mind was probably occupied with making ends meet to support two minors, while working full time in the mental hospital (dad died when I was two).

    I’m trying to think of all the people I know, whether any of them have a fully functional family. When you start to scrape the surface a little bit, there’s most often some dys-functionality there. In all the commercials before Christmas, it all looks so warm and cozy — when you know many of them get dead drunk and beat the crap out of one another …

    I have one brother too, and we’re not on speaking terms right now. It’s a phase. Usually they last a few years. Not my fault, and I don’t care.

    Why is it a good thing you talk with your father when he just gives you some kind of ‘armchair psychiatrist’ advice. I don’t know, but if I were you, I think I’d just cut off and move on. Easier said than done, perhaps but that conversations sure doesn’t sound like it’s helping.

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    1. Awe, I’m glad this post didn’t depress you, it turned out a bit too bleak even for my taste. I’m currently in the process of sorting out my mental mess, so, unfortunately, it sometimes results in weird blog posts with no point…

      That must have been terrible for you never to have known your father. I guess a shitty father is still better than no father at all. I agree with you so much, and I think the same – I’m perfectly sure my parents meant and did their best. My mother, who is very difficult too, adores me; and my father surely likes me in his own way too.

      One of the main reasons I reconnected with the father was that I think I owe him. On one hand, once people have kids, it’s their foremost duty to look after them. (If they’re not ready to do so, no one is forcing them to have any children at all.) On the other hand, my father supported me generously during my studies and were it not for him, I’d never have completed college. I think this is an extra which he didn’t have to do, after all, I was officially adult and hence the parent duty sort of ended… It seems to please him to talk with me, so I guess that’s the least I can do as a way of thanks. Though the calls are quite depressing. Perhaps I should take it as a good occasion to build my immunity against such ammunition 😉

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      1. Before my mum died [unexpectedly], there was a short time where we got a lot of old grudges and stuff sorted out. For that, I’m eternally grateful. Imagine the anxiety I would have had when it was too late.

        That said, I think it’s always a fine line (when to cut off communication to save one’s sanity). There could come a time, when one has some type of awakening, like I did, and luckily … I wasn’t too late. I’ve been very fortunate, when I think of it. Imagine also, if I’d started to regret not having children when it was too late! Never did 🙂

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        1. Yes, you are right, it’s extremely important to have a sense of closure…

          It’s funny you mention your not regretting not having children – the older I get, the less I like kids, though I wonder if it may happen that I change my opinion when it’s too late. I don’t think so though. Also, now is quite late already!

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          1. Yeah, I’m way past that stage … sometimes I think about it, and that decision still feels 100% right. Phew! It would have been so terrible having second thoughts on that!

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